I belong to all kinds of scholarly and professional associations (The Modern Language Association, the American Association of University Women, Academy of American Poets, etc) and I try to support charitable organizations whose work I value (Red Cross, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, etc) but there's one organization that I knew I'd want to support until I die, so a few years ago, after paying yearly membership dues for a decade, I just went ahead and bought a lifetime membership.
That organization is the Jane Austen Society of North America.
This morning when I got up and checked my email, there was a message from someone at the Jane Austen Society of Western Pennsylvania, inviting me to join the local branch. It's not so very local: The meetings are held an hour or two from where I live, but what the hell--I'll drive a few hours to talk to other Janeites.
For weeks now I've been working on a post about why I didn't like the new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I'll finish and post it one of these days.... Jane's birthday is coming up--she was born December 16, 1775--and I considered posting about her that day, but there's something else I want to write about then. (Yeah, I actually do plan ahead some times.) But when I got that message this morning, I thought, OK, today it's time to say something about Jane.
She's fabulous, you know? I recently showed all six episodes of the 1995 BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice to a friend, who was pleasantly surprised by how very much he liked it, that it was immediately accessible and very funny. He got a little upset when I turned the television off at the end of episode Four, when Darcy runs into Elizabeth at Pemberly, and couldn't believe how engrossed he was. If I hadn't said, "Sorry, it's time to go home," he would have kept watching because he needed to know exactly how it would all work out!
I admit I'm a little rushed for time today--I've got final papers to grade--so there's plenty to say that I'll wait and say later. Look forward to more on Jane in the next ten days! In the meantime, if you've never read it, check out this short story by Rudyard Kipling, called "The Janeites," about a guy who finds himself in the trenches of World War I in the midst of a secret society devoted to Austen--so devoted, in fact, that they name all their heavy artillery after the heavies in Austen novels--one of their biggest cannons is "Lady Catherine de Bugg."
I've read that during the worst of World War II, Winston Churchill had his daughter read Jane Austen to him every night so that he could relax--her novels managed to transport him in ways that nothing else could, so he might agree with what Humberstall concludes about Jane: "You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place. Gawd bless ’er, whoever she was."